Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Branding to the Extreme - Hello Kitty to be Brand Advertiser on Dodger Uniforms!


Nascar has been doing it for decades.  Soccer clubs worldwide do it too.  Heck, nearly every professional sports franchise throughout the world does it.

So, what keeps North American leagues from following suit?

The answer is nothing, and as I have learned today through a source, the Dodgers will be the first Major League Baseball club to sell advertising on their uniforms.

Welcome to the Dodgers, Hello Kitty!

Per an exclusive quote provided to me this morning:
"We are proud to be a partner with global brand Sanrio® Inc., parent company of Hello Kitty.  They have the most recognized brand in the world," said Dodgers Chief Marketing Officer Lon Rosen.  "That rascally cat, not-a-cat, will usher in a new Dodger era.  She... It... Whatever, will represent the Dodger Blue spirit by gracing the right shoulder of our uniforms."
I also understand that for one game this year all the Dodger players will wear a branded Dodger Hello Kitty cap.  Check it out below.

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Weekend Autograph Opportunities: Garvey, Newcombe, Gagne, Davis and Sizemore

Here are this weekends autograph opportunities and events throughout the Southland. As always, be sure to check the Blue Heaven Calendar for other events (a link can always be found on the tab at the top of this page, just left of center), and always confirm with the establishment. Everything is subject to change.  Please email me with any tips about upcoming events in Southern California.  As the rest of the week progresses I'll update this post with other events (if there are any) as I become aware of them.  Also, I don't always list every event below, so be sure to check my Calendar.  I always try to favor free signing events over paying events.  Click on any pic to embiggen.

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It's a big Dodger weekend at Frank & Sons.  They are hosting five former Dodger greats this coming Saturday.  Go here or here for information.

Don Newcombe
baseballs & small flats (up to and including 11x14's):  $39.
large flats, figurines, bobbleheads, minis & equipment:  $49.
bats, helmets, jerseys & artwork:  $59.
inscriptions:  $20.
photo-ops:  $49.
stage time:  11:30am - 1:00pm
Tommy Davis
special trading card rate:  $15.
any item:  $20.
inscriptions:  $10.
photo-ops:  $29.
stage time:  noon - 1:00pm
Ted Sizemore
baseballs & small flats (up to and including 11x14's):  $69.
large flats, figurines, bobbleheads, minis & equipment:  $79.
bats, helmets, jerseys & artwork:  $99.
inscriptions:  $29.
photo-ops:  $59.
stage time:  12:30pm - 2:00pm
Eric Gagne
baseballs & small flats (up to and including 11x14's):  $59.
large flats, figurines, bobbleheads, minis & equipment:  $79.
bats, helmets, jerseys & artwork:  $99.
inscriptions:  $29.
photo-ops:  $69.
stage time:  1:00pm - 2:30pm
Steve Garvey
baseballs & small flats (up to and including 11x14's):  $29.
large flats, figurines, bobbleheads, minis & equipment:  $39.
bats, helmets, jerseys & artwork:  $49.
inscriptions:  $20.
photo-ops: $49.
PLEASE NOTE:  NEW stage time:  1:30pm - 2:30pm

Location:
Frank & Son Collectible Show
19649 San Jose Avenue
City of Industry, CA 91748

***Please note that the Steve Garvey appearance time has been changed to 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM.

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Dodgers Notes from Spring Training: Spring Game 32 / Road Game 17


Throughout Spring Training the Dodgers PR department sends out helpful daily notes from Camelback Ranch, and I am happy to pass them along.  See what they've written below.

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Los Angeles Dodgers (16-9-6) vs. Kansas City Royals (18-10)
Wednesday, April 1, 2015 – 12:05 p.m. MT | Surprise Stadium

LHP Clayton Kershaw (3-0, 1.86) vs. RHP Yordano Ventura (1-0, 5.14)
TV: SNLA

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(Joe Wieland, pic via @Dodgers on twitter)

GETAWAY DAY: The Dodgers take on the Royals today in Surprise in their Arizona exhibition finale, with many of the regulars having already made their way back to Los Angeles ahead of tomorrow’s Freeway Series opener in Anaheim. Yesterday, the Dodgers wrapped up a 15-game slate at Camelback Ranch - Glendale, establishing records in both total attendance (147,066, besting previous high of 136,944 set in 2009) and average attendance (9,804, beating 2014 average of 9,534). In its seventh season playing at Camelback Ranch, the club posted four sellouts and eight of its 15 home games drew crowds of more than 10,000 fans.
  • Los Angeles has the National League’s top winning percentage this spring at .640 (16-9-6) and has already established a record with six ties.
  • This is not an April Fool’s Joke, Opening Day is just FIVE days away!

90 FEET AWAY: The Dodgers came up just short yesterday, leaving the tying and winning runs in scoring position in the ninth, and fell, 2-1, to the White Sox at Camelback Ranch. Chris Heisey’s fifth-inning home run provided the Dodgers’ lone run in support of starter Joe Wieland, who took the loss after allowing just two runs in 5.0 strong innings.
  • Yimi Garcia struck out the side in the eighth inning and has allowed just one run, while striking out 12, in 9.1 innings this spring.

B.A.T.-TER UP: On Monday, the Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.) announced that more than 1,400 players, coaches and managers for all 30 MLB clubs collectively pledged a record donation of $2,643,195 to the organization, which is dedicated to confidentially assisting members of the baseball family who are in need with nowhere else to turn. Additionally, the Dodgers (NL) and Tigers (AL) were recognized as the recipients of the Bobby Murcer Award for their generosity and committing the most money to the charity. It’s the fourth time that the Dodgers have won the award (also: 2010, 2011, 2013).
(Metal Detectors at Dodger Stadium, pic via @Dodgers on twitter)

SAFETY FIRST: Dodger fans will experience new security procedures set forth by Major League Baseball beginning with the Freeway Series finale on Saturday, April 4 with the Angels and running through the 2015 MLB season. MLB will be implementing new mandatory security procedures through a metal detector-enhanced screening process. This procedure, which resulted from a recent study of best security practices and MLB’s continuing work with the Department of Homeland Security to elevate and standardize initiatives across the game, will be in addition to bag checks that have been uniform throughout MLB.  Fan screening may be conducted by means of hand-held metal detection or walk-through magnetometers. These procedures were utilized periodically at certain gates during the 2014 season and all 30 Major League Baseball teams will institute these procedures this year.

FOLLOW THE CACTUS LEADERS: The Dodgers have blasted a Major League-leading 46 home runs (three more than the Cubs’ 43) and have a .286 team batting average (3rd, NL) with a .487 slugging percentage (2nd, NL) this spring.
  • Joc Pederson continues to rank among the NL leaders this spring in batting average (.368, 6th), slugging percentage (.754, 1st), hits (21, T-5th), runs (13, T-2nd), total bases (43, 2nd) and home runs (6, T-2nd).
  • Justin Turner has hit safely in 15 of his last 16 games and is batting .477 with six doubles, three homers and eight RBI, while posting a .500 on-base percentage and a .818 slugging percentage in 18 Cactus League games. Turner’s 21 hits this spring tie for fifth-most in the NL.
  • Yasiel Puig ranks among the NL’s best this spring in home runs (5, T-4th) and RBI (13, T-10th); Kiké Hernandez places among the league’s best in home runs (5, T-4th) and runs scored (12, T-6th).

HAPPY HAPPY!: The Dodgers would like to wish a very happy birthday to Chris Withrow, who turns 26 today! Withrow will start the season on the 60-day disabled list as he continues to rehab from Tommy John surgery and offseason back surgery.

ON THE MOUND: LHP Clayton Kershaw will make his final start of the spring today and is expected to throw about 45 pitches. The 27-year-old last pitched on Sunday against the White Sox, allowing just one run on four hits and striking out eight in 6.0 innings and will make his fourth consecutive Opening Day start on Monday against the Padres. Kershaw is the only pitcher from big league camp heading to Surprise today and will be followed to the mound by minor leaguers.
  • Zack Greinke will make his final tuneup of the spring this morning in a minor league intrasquad game, expected to start at 10:00 a.m. on Field 1 at Camelback Ranch.
(McCarthy, Kershaw, Anderson & Greinke, pic via @Dodgers on twitter)

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Blog Kiosk: 4/1/2015 - Dodger Links - Scully, Santos and Metal Detectors at Dodger Stadium


Spring Training is quickly coming to a close.  The Dodgers played their last home game yesterday afternoon and set a new Camelback Ranch attendance record of 147,066.  That's an average of 9,804 fans per game.  Photo above tweeted by the @Dodgers.

Below are some links to check out:
  • Yeah.  I'm linking to a Bill Plaschke story again: "As Dodgers' TV blackout drags on, they're losing sight of their fans."  He provides a deeply personal look at a 94 year old fan who's life had been centered around the Dodgers and cannot now watch the club due to the cable issues.  
"I feel so helpless," Ballard says. "It's like my team just forgot all about me."
  • Via Curbed LA, "The Vin Scully Map Guide to Los Angeles."  Borrowing the idea of the "Map to the Stars" commonly found on the streets of Los Angeles, Curbed LA shows you everything related to Vin Scully.
  • Metal detectors are coming to Dodger Stadium.  Via Cary Osborne at Dodger Insider, "New MLB security procedures begin Saturday at Dodger Stadium."  I'm surprised that this hasn't happened sooner.
  • The Dodgers are whittling down their relief staff.  Bill Plunkett of the OC Register tells us a bit about it on twitter:


He'd also get the chance to pitch at Dodger Stadium, 25 miles from where he grew up. His parents could come to a lot more games than when he was in Chicago or Toronto.

"It'd be like a dream come true," Santos said. "They're both excited, have their fingers cross and all that stuff, so we'll see."

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

1880's Brooklyn Grays Pitcher John Harkins at BST Auctions


I figure from time to time, when the desire strikes, I'll put up a little post featuring an old-tyme Dodger player you may not know.  It'll usually be a fellow who played over 100 years ago, and I'll be sure to share a pic of a vintage card or collectible of him, as well.  Over the years I've done this numerous times, but I plan on making it a regular occurrence.

Today's flashback is former Brooklyn Grays, the Dodger first incarnation as a part of the American Association, pitcher John Harkins.  I ran into an BST Auction of a 1887 Old Judge tobacco card of his and decided to find out more about him.  You can see a photo of the card above.  BTW, the card sold at auction a couple of weeks ago for just under $300.

Harkins was known by the nickname of "Pa" for reasons I do not know - although I'm sure it has to do with an paternal instinct.  After all, he moonlighted as a college coach at Yale, Princeton and Lehigh during his playing days.

John Harkins began playing the game in the sandlots of New Brunswick, New Jersey.  He was learned in every position on the field, but it was as a pitcher that he made his name.  In fact, his prowess at the position was something he stumbled upon.  According to a story told in an obituary reprinted on Ancestry.com, Harkins was asked to to pitch after the days hurler failed to appear.  He eventually threw a tie and became a regular pitcher from then on.

As an older lad, he attended Rutgers University as a chemistry major, but soon left to pursue a career on the diamond.  Harkins played for Trenton of the Inter-State League, was eventually sold to the Cleveland Blues of the National League and then was quickly snatched up by the Brooklyn club when Cleveland folded - going along with follow Blues players Duc Bushong and Germany Smith. 

With Brooklyn he joined the starting rotation and won a total of 39 games over three seasons.  He threw just under 800 innings during that span while completing 88 games and recording one shutout.  In 1888 he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles and soon retired.  As is relayed in the obituary, he decided he could make a better living opening up a tavern and pitching intermittently for local town-ball teams.

John Harkins died of a heart attack in 1940 at the age of 81.  He was a retired professional ballplayer, a former Dodger, a longtime sergeant-a-arms of the New Brunswick District Court and an entrepreneurial restaurant owner in the New Brunswick area.

When asked about his thoughts of the big leagues when he visited his last game in 1936 he said thusly:
"Yes, there's been a big change since my day. And one of those boys down there (pointing to the members of the two teams) probably is paid more than was our entire team. And the crowds nowadays are different. Here there are 50,000. When we played before 5,000 we were performing for an 'enormous throng'."
Below are a few more cards featuring John Harkins.  You will also see the photo of Harkins as an Oriole that was taken from the original 1888 Glass Plate Negative used for one of the cards below.  That negative sold in 2014 for $1,554 at Legendary Auctions.


Here are Harkins' career stats, via Baseball Reference:


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Dodgers Notes from Spring Training: Spring Game 31 / Home Game 15


Throughout Spring Training the Dodgers PR department sends out helpful daily notes from Camelback Ranch, and I am happy to pass them along.  See what they've written below.

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Chicago White Sox (9-15-3) at Los Angeles Dodgers (16-8-6)
Tuesday, March 31, 2015 – 1:05 p.m. MT | Camelback Ranch

LHP Carlos Rodon (1-0, 3.65) vs. RHP Joe Wieland (0-0, 1.00)
TV: SNLA

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(Autograph seekers, pic via Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2015)

THANK YOU, ARIZONA: The Dodgers finish their home portion of the spring schedule today, officially saying goodbye to their seventh season at Camelback Ranch. So far this spring, Los Angeles is 7-4-3 at home, and 140,925 fans have come through the gates this March. The Dodgers sold out their games on March 13, 14, 19 and 27 and want to thank baseball fans in Arizona and Dodger fans across the country. For the Camelback finale, the Dodgers, who have the National League’s best spring winning percentage at .667, will take on the Chicago White Sox for the fourth and final time this spring. Los Angeles has taken two of three from Chicago thus far, losing the Cactus League opener, 6-4, before coming back to win on March 5 and March 26. Just a friendly reminder, Opening Day at Dodger Stadium against the San Diego Padres is in just six days.

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER WIN: The Dodgers beat the Diamondbacks in Scottsdale yesterday, 4-2, behind a strong start from left-hander Brett Anderson. Anderson moved to 2-0 in the Cactus League, tossing 6.0 scoreless innings and giving up just four hits while striking out two. The native of Texas walked one and lowered his ERA to 2.13 this spring. As of now, Anderson is slated to start his first game during the regular season on April 10 in Arizona. At the plate, Adrian Gonzalez, Kiké Hernandez, Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis produced run-scoring hits.

LET’S MAKE A DEAL: Today, the Dodgers acquired minor league utilityman Elliot Johnson from the Rangers in exchange for cash considerations. Johnson appeared in seven games for the Indians last season and spent most of the season at Triple-A Columbus, hitting .236 with five homers in 87 games. In addition, the club signed right-hander Freddy Garcia to a minor league deal. Garcia pitched last season in Taiwan.  

DONNIE DODGER BASEBALL: On this date in 2011, Don Mattingly recorded his first victory as a Dodger manager, a 2-1 victory over the Giants. That game was also the first-career Opening Day start for Clayton Kershaw, who is set to make his fifth consecutive Opening Day start on April 6 vs. San Diego. Mattingly has a career record of 354-293 and his .547 winning percentage ranks fifth in franchise history among managers with at least 250 games at the helm, trailing just Charlie Dressen (.642), Burt Shotton (.603), Leo Durocher (.567) and Walter Alston (.559).

FOLLOW THE CACTUS LEADERS: The Dodgers have blasted a Major League-leading 45 home runs (four more than the Cubs’ 41) and have a .288 team batting average (3rd, NL) with a .490 slugging percentage (2nd, NL) this spring.
  • Joc Pederson continues to rank among the NL leaders this spring in batting average (.368, 7th), slugging percentage (.754, 3rd), hits (21, T-2nd), runs (13, T-2nd), total bases (43, 2nd) and home runs (6, T-2nd).
  • Justin Turner has hit safely in 14 of his last 15 games and is batting .465 with six doubles, three homers and eight RBI, while posting a .489 on-base percentage and a .814 slugging percentage in 17 Cactus League games. Turner’s 20 hits this spring tie for fifth-most in the NL and his 35 total bases rank eighth.
  • Yasiel Puig ranks among the NL’s best this spring in home runs (5, T-4th) and RBI (13, T-7th); Kiké Hernandez places among the league’s best in home runs (5, T-4th) and runs scored (12, T-5th).

ON THE MOUND: RHP Joe Wieland, sporting a 1.00 ERA (1 ER/9.0 IP) in four Cactus League games, will make his first start this spring today. Wieland was optioned to the minor leagues on March 16 and figures to start the season in Triple-A Oklahoma City. The Nevada native was acquired from the Padres in the Matt Kemp deal and is 35-22 with a 3.27 ERA in 95 games (87 starts) during seven minor league seasons with the Rangers and Padres’ organizations.
  • RHP David Aardsma will see action for the ninth time this spring. The veteran reliever has held opposing hitters to a .143 batting average, while striking out nine through 8.0 innings of work.
  • RHP Juan Nicasio is expected to make his eighth appearance, including one start, of the spring this afternoon. Nicasio, who was acquired from Colorado on Nov. 24, 2014, has 11 strikeouts and just two walks in 11.1 innings this spring and has a 2.18 career strikeout-to-walk ratio in four big league seasons (294 SO/135 BB).
  • RHP Sergio Santos has tossed scoreless relief in five of eight appearances this spring, while striking out 10 in 7.2 innings. He last pitched in a big league game on Sunday against the Giants, allowing two runs in 0.2 innings of relief.
  • RHP Yimi Garcia will make his ninth Cactus League appearance today. Garcia allowed his first run of the spring in his last start on Friday against the Giants.
(Joe Wieland, pic via @Dodgers on twitter)

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Welcome to the Blue, Freddy Garcia!


I had always been a big fan of Freddy Garcia.  He developed into an frontline starting pitcher when he first came into the league with the Mariners.  Garcia threw a mid-90's fastball and hard slider that stifled opposing batters.  Heck, everyone wanted him.  In fact, he would eventually be involved in two blockbuster trades that saw him exchanged for top prospects like Michael Morse and Gio Gonzalez.

Then with the Phillies, the wear and tear of throwing seven consecutive 200+ innings finally wore on him.  The wheels fell off.  In 2007, he developed shoulder problems that would eventually lead to labrum surgery and a lost year.  On top of that, Garcia would never be the same pitcher he was before.

Garcia's velocity had diminished significantly, so he had to relearn his craft and change his game.  And that he did with some marginal success.  No longer a strike out specialist, he won 12 games for the White Sox in 2010 and recorded a WAR of 2.3.  Then the following season with the Yankees he won another 12 games with a 3.62 ERA and a WAR of 3.5.  Garcia was learning to locate his pitches and eventually developed a bevy of different pitches to deploy against batters. 

Now at 38 years old he is a journeyman pitcher.  He has bounced around; even playing in Taiwan last season for the EDA Rhinos of the CPBL (the same team Manny Ramirez would play for).

Last night, it was announced through various news sources that the Dodgers have signed Garcia to a minor league contract.  I do not expect him to be a replacement for Ryu - who will begin the season on the DL.  Instead, he'll begin his Dodger career with our AAA club in Oklahoma City, per a tweet from Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times:


So he'll provide minor league depth with a possible opportunity to pitch in a pinch in Los Angeles should the need arise.  That being said, I do have a great appreciation for guys who've struggled and fought back to do the thing they love, and I have nothing but praise and well-wishes for Garcia and his future with the Dodgers. 

In celebration of Garcia's arrival to the club I made the above fantasy card for him.  I grabbed a photo tweeted by the CPBL (as a member of the EDA Rhinos) and the 1972 Topps Baseball card design.

Below are the career stats for Freddy Garcia, via Baseball-Reference:


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* Dodgers Blue Heaven home page *

Blog Kiosk: 3/31/2015 - Dodger Links - MLB15, Gypsy Queen and Yasiel Puig


Guess what officially came out last night. 

MLB 15 is now available in stores and Yasiel Puig was one of the first to get a copy.  He tweeted out the above photo about an hour before the official midnight release.  BTW, Yasiel Puig and Dodger Stadium are featured prominently in the intro to the game.  Check it out directly below.

Video Link:

Below are some links to check out:
  • The Dodger Blogger Softball Tournament is scheduled for April 11th, and there are still spots open for those who want to hit the diamond.  Go here for information.  Unfortunately, I will not be attending.  I do want to point out that the fellow putting it all together at Left Field Pavilion blog, in benefit of the Los Angeles Mission, is doing yeoman's work.
  • Via u/Snaaaaaaaaaake on Reddit, "How to be a dodger fan in 42 easy steps."
42.  This is, the final step. You ready? Cut yourself (metaphorically). See what color you bleed. By now you should bleed dodger blue. It serves as a reminder, both good days and bad, that we're all a dodger inside.
Via Don Mattingly: "I think it's just part of his maturity as a player. Last year was his first full season in the big leagues, and he's still very young [24]. All we look for is him to get a little better every year."
  • Famed Baseball artist Monty Sheldon shared some of the original artwork he created for Topps' 2015 Gypsy Queen set on his Facebook.  Check them out here.  On the right is an Yasiel Puig art/relic card he made that can be found in packs.  (Hat Tip: Sports Card Info)  BTW, I had the pleasure of interviewing Monty Sheldon for this blog a couple of years ago.  You can check that out here.

* Please follow on twitter @ernestreyes *
* Dodgers Blue Heaven home page *

Monday, March 30, 2015

Opening Day Tailgating Near Dodger Stadium could be a Hassle


I don't think anyone should be surprised there will be some new parking/tailgating related restrictions put into place for Opening Day near Dodger Stadium this year.

As you know, tailgating at Dodger Stadium is restricted, so fans head to adjacent Elysian Park to party before games.  This usually isn't a big deal for most games, but on Opening Day it can be a nightmare.  The place gets flooded with fans, and as a result the revelry can become a nuisance.  For those who live nearby (namely the neighborhoods near Scott and Morton Avenue in Echo Park) it is an undesired disruption.

Check out Cecilia Padilla-Brill's article at The Eastsider for more information:
“There’s going to be zero tolerance for tailgating on Opening Day,” announced Council District 1 Field Deputy Melinda Alatorre at last week’s Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council meeting. “I don’t know how to express it enough. LAPD is bringing all of the resources that they possibly have to try to maintain the tailgating activity in the park as well as in the neighborhood.”
(Screen Grab from djace21 youtube video)

From what I understand, there was a huge party in neighborhoods near Dodger Stadium last year.  Folks partied all morning and afternoon, drank alcohol and urinated in front of people's homes and in the streets, and there was an impromptu parade on Scott Avenue.  Needless to say, it was a madhouse.

As a result, there will be "No Parking" signs along a stretch of Stadium Way known as "Avenue of the Palms."  Also, several streets will have two-hour parking restrictions that both tailgaters and residents will have to abide by.  So far, only four different thoroughfares have the two-hour restriction, but I suspect every residential street in the area will eventually face the parking limit.

The map at the very top shows the currently announced parking restrictions.  More details will be announced later this week that will likely include more streets.  BTW, these restrictions will only exist for Opening Day.
(Screen Grab from StadiumBound youtube video)
(Screen Grab from StadiumBound youtube video)

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Larry Sherry's 1959 Hickok Award Belt Buckle at Huggins & Scott Auctions


Larry Sherry had a pretty good rookie year in 1959.  He joined the club in July and had some marginal success as a staring pitcher; going 1-2 with a 3.62 ERA in five starts.  It was as a reliever, though, where he really excelled on the mound.  In 14 relief appearances that season, Sherry won five games and recorded a 0.74 ERA with three saves and 26 strike outs in 36.1 innings.

But that's not all.  Larry Sherry had an even better postseason.  Against the Chicago White Sox, Sherry finished all four Dodger victories.  He recording two wins, two saves and a 0.71 ERA, and was awarded the World Series MVP by the press.  Furthermore, he also won the October 1959 Hickok Championship Belt Buckle given to the best athlete in any sport for that month, and you can see photos of it in this post.

It is currently for sale at Huggins & Scott Auction.  Check it out here.

BTW, this isn't the first time I've mentioned this award.  Last year I shared a vintage press photo that I had added to my collection featuring Sandy Koufax winning a similar award.  He had won the S. Rae Hickok Professional Athlete of the Year Award (Hickok Belt) in 1963.  The Sherry award is only for his exploits during a single month in 1959.  You can check out that old post here.
(Auction Link)

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